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FWB Relationships: Meaning and Rules to Make It Really Work

In this article we are going to talk about friends with benefits (FWB) relationships, fwb meaning, and rules to make this kind of relationship work.

Not every relationship you have is meant to be your forever love or soulmate bond. It’s unrealistic to think otherwise. Dating is a process.

You’ll find people who are compatible with you for a short time but aren’t capable of growing with you for a lifetime. 

Some relationships stay firmly in the realm of friendship while others cross that line into a deeper, romantic love. The friends with benefits relationship blurs the line entirely. 

Friend with Benefits (FWB) Meaning 

A friends with benefits relationship is exactly what it sounds like. You’re friends who are also intimate with each other.

The benefits don’t come in the form of health or dental insurance, but they do usually come with a casual sexual relationship that suits both parties without a need for commitment.

This isn’t a relationship that’s meant to develop into anything more. It’s meant to combine the best of both worlds — friend and lover — into one casual, temporary relationship. 

Can a Friends with Benefits Relationship Work?

The friends with benefits couple isn’t just a cute romcom trope. Many people have experienced this type of relationship.

But just because friends with benefits relationships are possible, it doesn’t mean that they always work out well. It truly depends on the couple in question.

However, it is possible to have a successful fwb relationship if you follow some key rules. 

How to Make a Friends With Benefits Relationship Work

What follows are a few rules you should keep in mind if you want your friends with benefits relationship work.

Why listen to me? I was a master’s level licensed therapist who worked with couples and families and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships and psychology. My work has been featured on Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, and Mamamia.

1. Know Yourself

If you really want to pursue a FWB relationship, you need to first know yourself. Are you truly capable of keeping it casual without catching feelings?

Are you really interested in a part-time, temporary situationship instead of a real-life relationship?

Also, are you settling for the friends with benefits status when you really want so much more? 

Only you can answer these questions. If you’re capable of keeping it casual and doing so respectfully, you’re probably okay to proceed.

If you’re able to communicate well and set healthy boundaries, you shouldn’t have too difficult of a time in managing this type of casual relationship.

Even if you’ve agreed to be friends with benefits, that doesn’t mean either one of you can just show up and expect benefits. Keep consent at the forefront of your mind. 

Ask rather than assume.

Make plans rather than spontaneously showing up. By following some basic rules of consent, you’re more likely to navigate a friends with benefits relationship successfully.  

happy couple in bed black and white
Photo by mimi lalaa on Unsplash

3. Be Clear About the Relationship Status

Don’t assume you’re in a friends with benefits relationship. Clarify the nature of the relationship so that you don’t accidentally lead anyone on.

If you’re not comfortable clarifying the relationship, then you’re likely not mature enough to be in one. 

That may seem harsh, but navigating a casual situationship can offer challenges equal to a relationship. You’re having to manage a lovers relationship while maintaining the friendship.

You’re going to need to be comfortable communicating to make this work. 

4. Keep It Honest

Don’t lie. Ever.

If you’re casual, you should be comfortable admitting that you’re dating other people or telling your casual partner that you’re just not interested in pursuing the benefit aspect of the relationship at a particular time. 

You’ll never protect anyone’s feelings by lying to them. Also, don’t lie to yourself. If you really have big feelings for your friend, don’t tell yourself that you’re capable of casual.

If you do, you’ll head straight for heartbreak. 

5. Set the Expectations

A friends with benefits relationship requires expectations to be set. How often will you hang out? What are the rules for when you go out together in public?

Can you take selfies together and post them online, or is this something you don’t want public? 

Talking this out will help you get on the same page and avoid the potential for miscommunication and hurt feelings. Be honest about what you want.

Have boundaries around the casual nature of your relationship. Talk through how often you’ll touch base, and don’t take this relationship for granted. 

6. Be Actual Friends

This should actually be one of the primary rules. You need an actual friendship foundation to be friends with benefits. Otherwise, you’re just fuck buddies or enjoying a situationship.

If you’re going to add the element of friendship, act like a friend.

In other words, don’t treat them differently than you’d treat another friend. Don’t disrespect their time, thoughts, or feelings just because you’re not in a romantic relationship.

Have time where you hang out as friends without benefits or time when you talk that doesn’t veer into sexual territory.

Treat them with the respect, kindness, and compassion you would treat any other friend. 

7. Communicate Often

The friends with benefits relationship is likely temporary.

Be sure to communicate as things change.

If you start to date someone you might be serious about, let your friend know so that they’ll understand why you may not want to continue the benefits portion of the relationship. Talk it out.

When you’re ready for the relationship to come to an end, be clear about that, too. Communicating effectively is hard.

Even when you’re not meant to have romantic feelings, it can still be hurtful to hear that someone is moving on when you’re enjoying the relationship — and hurtful to be the one who needs to move on.

Navigate this by talking it out as the relationship progresses. 

8. Be Safe

Even if you choose a monogamous friends with benefits relationship where you’re not sleeping with anyone else, practice sexual safety.

Even though you might want to believe that the other person has been completely forthright about their history and current on health exams, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You’ll have a greater chance of avoiding unplanned pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections when you take basic precautions.

Talk about what contraceptives you’re comfortable using, and make sure the arrangements for purchasing them seems equitable to both parties.

If you know the benefits part of the relationship is likely to happen at any time, have contraceptives available to proceed safely.

9. Don’t Be Jealous

You know you’re not supposed to be catching feelings … so why are you jealous when they start dating someone else? People are complicated.

Even if you’re happy for the casual relationship, you might resent losing out on the connection, affection, and sexual benefits when they move on with someone else. 

Just remember: jealousy doesn’t belong in a friends with benefits relationship. You want your friend to be happy, right?

You want them to find the relationship they truly want, yes? Then, be happy for them even if it changes their relationship with you. Wish them well, and keep the green-eyed monster at bay. 

Recommended read: When a Woman Tries to Make You Jealous: 9 Signs & What to Do

10. Choose Wisely

When you choose a friends with benefits partner, choose wisely. If someone is indiscreet about other lovers, assume they’ll be equally indiscreet about you.

Make sure you choose a partner who is mature enough for the casual relationship you want and capable of respecting boundaries.

Some other rules of thumb around choosing partners includes to avoid choosing someone you actually want to partner. If you’ve already got feelings, you know it’s far too late to avoid catching them.

Don’t settle — and don’t choose someone you know has genuine romantic feelings for you. This will not end well. 

11. Avoid Couple Behaviors

If you want to keep it casual, be casual. Don’t be loved up in public or on social media. Avoid dating each other if you’re really just friends who sleep together. 

This is more important than you think. If you start blurring the lines even more in the relationship, feelings are bound to get hurt.

If you wouldn’t do it with a friend in public, it’s probably best not to do it with your friend who has benefits. 

12. Outline the Ending

The relationship will end. It’s the very nature of it. Discuss this in advance. Will you stay friends when the benefits come to an end? What would that look like?

This is where many friends with benefits screw up. They agree to honesty. They discuss their dating activities. And they stay friends.

Then, they meet someone else and decide to just ghost or do a slow fade rather than telling the other person that it’s over.

If there’s not respect at the end, there wasn’t truly respect at all.

13. Keep Dating

The biggest rule to follow for a successful friends with benefits relationship is this: keep dating.

Don’t be exclusive with them while they’re out looking for a romantic partner.

If you both keep dating, you’ll be more likely to keep the interaction casual while you look for partners better suited for the relationships you want.

You might be tempted to just enjoy your friends with benefits situation and to stop looking for a romantic partner. This can be dangerous.

You might be tempted to turn your friend into a relationship substitute. You’ll risk catching feelings — and hurting them. It’s best to keep looking until you find what you really want. 

Recommended read: The Power of the No-Contact Rule and How to Use It

Save It for Later

How Do You Tell If You’re Just FWB?

If you’re not sure of your status, there are a few ways to find out.

  1. Ask. Just ask if you’re friends with benefits or something more. Don’t assume, and don’t try to find out indirectly. 
  2. Pay attention. Do they invite you to “hang out” rather than go out on a date? Do you go out at all or only spend time together in private where a sexually relationship is more likely? If you’re not going out in public on actual dates, you’re probably just a friend with benefits. 
  3. Check social media. Are they good with posting coupled up pictures with you, or do they avoid that entirely? Do they only post the most casual pictures with you or none at all? Do they ask you not to post pictures of the two of you together? If they aren’t public with you, ask why. You might get more clarity about your relationship status with a simple inquiry about their strange online behavior.
  4. Be honest … with yourself. If you’re not sure if you’re an actual couple, you aren’t. If you think you’re probably just a friend with benefits, you likely are. Don’t tell yourself what you want to believe. Evaluate their actions. You already know, don’t you?

If you’re not comfortable being in the friend with benefits category, you’ll need to make some tough decisions. Don’t settle for less than you want.

Advocate for yourself and don’t expect the person muddying the waters to do that for you.

How Do You Make a FWB Miss You?

If you want a friend with benefits to miss you, you can see them less and let absence make the heart grow fonder.

But then you need to ask yourself — why do you want them to miss you in the first place? 

Remember, you’re not supposed to be jealous. This is a casual relationship. There’s not one good reason to try to make a fwb miss you — not if you’re keeping it casual.

Have you developed feelings for them? It might be time to have a conversation with them.

You could play games, but you’ll be risking both the friendship and the benefits relationship if they don’t respond in the way you want or the way you think they will.

Is that a risk you want to take? 

Should You Have a FWB Relationship? 

Only you can answer this question. It’s okay if it’s not your cup of tea.

It’s not for everyone. 

If you do choose to have a fwb relationship, it can be a lot of fun. If you choose wisely, you can enjoy all the benefits of a friendship with the many benefits of having a lover, too.

And if you communicate as the relationship progresses, you’ll be more likely to avoid hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and drama. 

There’s nothing wrong with knowing that you’re better off as friends but want to explore the sexual chemistry simmering between you.

Just know that if you go there, it could change everything.

You might have the time of your life before moving onto a more compatible long-term relationship. Choose well and wisely, and stay safe out there.

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Photo by mimi lalaa on Unsplash

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